Read More: Questioning Single-Engine Helicopter Performance
February 26, 2019

Let’s focus on what causes most accidents (hint: it’s not engine failures).

While the US helicopter industry enjoys relatively nonrestrictive single­engine regulations, the rest of the world is experiencing increasingly prescriptive standards and recommended practices issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that are aimed directly at limiting the operation of single-engine helicopters.

ICAO’s reasoning: if an engine failure occurs at any time during the flight, a single-engine aircraft will be forced to land. Governments that participate in ICAO are offered two choices. Either (1) restrict the operation of single-engine aircraft over congested areas (ICAO defines these as any used for residential, commercial, or recreational purposes, which ends up eliminating a lot of land, particularly in densely populated countries) or (2) implement their own performance standards for helicopter operations (which the United States, among others, has done). The result is that single-engine aircraft are being regulated out of the civil fleet in many of the 192 nations that are ICAO members.

In fact, there is no justifiable reason to portray single-­engine helicopters as being inherently more dangerous. Companies that work regularly in mountainous and high-terrain areas often use single-engine helicopters because of their superior performance under those conditions. And just like single-engine helicopters, those with twin engines have only one tail rotor, one main rotor gear box, one tail rotor gearbox, and one tail rotor drive shaft. The failure of any one of these critical components means that aircraft is going down—regardless of the number of engines.

The sad truth is that the majority of helicopter mishaps result from pilots making judgment errors, losing control of the aircraft, and flying perfectly good machines into terrain. According to the US Helicopter Safety Team, the top three types of helicopter mishaps (loss of control, unintended flight in instrument meteorological conditions, and low-altitude operations) accounted for more than 50 percent of the helicopter fatalities (104), more than the remaining 15 types combined (96).

Accident data from other ICAO-participating states support the safety of single-engine helicopters. The Australian Transportation Safety Board classified accidents over a five-year period as either mechanical or operational. Of the 749 accidents recorded during the period, just over a quarter (197) were attributed to mechanical problems. In other words, close to 75 percent of those accidents were not mechanical (that is, pilot error).

Japan, a country with a relatively small land mass and numerous mountains, is an ICAO-participating state that employs over 300 single-engine helicopters. According to Japanese aviation records, there are presently 814 registered helicopters operating in the country, with a ratio of 42.1 percent single-engine and 57.9 percent twin. Over the last 20 years, the numbers of single­engine helicopters have decreased, but the country still has many single-engine helicopters that regularly fly over Japanese airspace.

According to statistics obtained from its Transport Safety Board, Japan has not experienced a single accident or incident caused by an engine failure in the last 10 years. Once again, pilot error is the leading cause of accidents or incidents—in singles and twins. Although mechanical issues did contribute to mishaps, they were caused by detachment of the tail rotor (immune from the number of engines) and a fire in the cargo compartment.

These mishap statistics tell the same story as those from the United States: the clear majority of helicopter accidents are caused by pilot error, not by system malfunction. Wouldn’t our attention, time, and money be better spent on training pilots instead of banning single­-engine helicopters?

Instead of focusing an inordinate amount of time, energy, and resources to paint single-engine helicopters as potential high-risk operations, ICAO and its member states should instead invest in improved pilot training, risk assessment and mitigation, and crew resource ­management.

Read More: How Far Is Too Far?
February 26, 2019

Preventive maintenance is always better than reactive maintenance.

Earlier this year, I was having maintenance challenges with an aircraft. Sometimes everything was perfect and nothing amiss, but other times, something wasn’t right. The plane would be hard to start but then would run perfectly. Other times, it wouldn’t start at all.

I read maintenance manuals, troubleshooting charts, and online blogs. I spoke to tech support people. I checked p-leads, spark plugs, fuel delivery, and the electrical system. I changed the ignition switch and installed a new carburetor. But I didn’t get to the root of the problem until the last maneuver of a biennial flight review, when the engine quit and the proverbial light came on.

What I had been experiencing all along was an intermittent magneto problem—a dual magneto problem at that!

A dual magneto failure. What are the chances? I hadn’t thought it possible. Our machines are redundant in so many ways. The electrical system is designed to make a dual mag failure very unlikely.

Here are some clues as to how this happened: Both magnetos were installed new at the same time during an engine overhaul. Both had 950 hours on them. Although both magnetos should have had 500-hour inspections, that never happened. At each annual inspection, the timing was checked, along with all items spelled out in FAR Part 43, Appendix D. Ops normal.

For Part 91 operations, the FAA allows us to continue to fly our aircraft if they pass the Part 43 annual inspection. We do not have to abide by the criteria for manufacturers’ recommended inspection or recommended time before overhaul.

This usually works out because much has been done in the past five decades to improve the equipment we fly. The machining process is better. The lubricants we use are a lot better. Parts are precision machined and last longer than components of yesteryear.

Many owners and pilots continue to fly beyond the recommended time limits. Is that a problem? It could be. You must ask yourself: If I do not use the manufacturer’s limit, then what is the limit? How far beyond the inspection criteria is too far?

When you fly that component to failure, you will know exactly how far is too far. But when you reach that point, where will you be? On the ground at your local airport or helipad? Or in the air, perhaps far from a hospitable forced-landing site?

A few days ago, I was in a different aircraft, out of town on a short flight of about 35 minutes each way. On the way back, I experienced an alternator failure. Not as big of a deal as the dual magneto failure, but still I had to do some higher-level math to determine how soon I needed to get the electric landing gear down with available battery power. I was certainly grateful to have an engine monitor, an electrical system monitor, and a navigation system with time-to-go displayed.

With a little brain power, I calculated I could get back to base with no problem. I chose to slow down and lower the landing gear at 11.7 volts to allow some juice to spare for radios. It worked out nicely. The gear went down, and the radios, autopilot, and transponder continued to work with the battery power I had.

Upon landing, I went through the logbooks. The alternator had been in service for 20 years and one month, or 1,756 hours. Kudos to the company who assembled such a robust alternator, but it should have been replaced or overhauled well before that day.

We have the right and authority to fly our machines beyond manufacturers’ recommended limits if we do not fly for compensation or hire. But we need to be smart about it and not put ourselves in a position where we fly them to failure. If you fly a component beyond the manufacturers’ recommendations, fine. But then whose recommendations will you follow?

Fugere tutum! 


Read More: Shop Talk
February 26, 2019

Make a plan to share what you learned at the Rotor Safety Challenge.

Don’t look now, but HAI HELI-EXPO 2019 is here. It’s hard to believe the year has gone by so fast.

As you make your plans for attending the show in Atlanta, think about attending some of the great sessions available in the 2019 Helicopter Foundation International (HFI) Rotor Safety Challenge (RSC), sponsored by MD Helicopters. These 60-plus education sessions cover everything from improving pilot proficiency to developing a safety management system to managing aircraft vibration. And they are free to all HAI HELI-EXPO® attendees and exhibitors.

There are tracks for safety, pilots, operations, maintenance, and career development (you can see the complete schedule at Which sessions will you attend? Well, what were some of the hot-button topics in your shop or office this past year? Is there an issue that created a lot of discussion? Use the 2019 RSC to get on top of some of these subjects.

The HFI Rotor Safety Challenge is an outstanding opportunity to network with folks who face the same operational issues that you do. Is keeping track of all the inspection and repair paperwork for your operation a pain? Of course it is! So why not attend the session on best practices in in maintenance recordkeeping (Tuesday, March 5, 9:15 a.m.) and learn how others are coping with it. Get a fresh perspective from the RSC presenter or other attendees. Follow up with the presenter to discuss a particular point.

At a RSC session, you may learn new techniques or operational advances for dealing with common issues. But whether you are an owner/operator, manager, line pilot, or maintenance technician, to really make a difference, you need to share what you’ve learned with your colleagues.

Consider organizing a lunch-and-learn at work around your takeaways from the 2019 Rotor Safety Challenge. A lunch-and-learn is an informal learning opportunity organized around lunch time. Some people “brown-bag” it; some offices order pizza for the group. Meanwhile, everybody gets together to learn something new.

Bringing together different groups to discuss current topics in aviation is one of the best features of lunch-and-learns. Breaking down the silos that divide pilots, maintainers, managers, dispatchers, and office staff and learning more about each other’s challenges can go a long way to improving team functioning and operational efficiency.

Some people structure their lunch-and-learns as a lecture. And if you are only concerned with providing everyone with the same information, such as when announcing a policy change, this is a good format.

However, consider using more of an open forum format for your lunch-and-learn. Encourage discussion. Be open to hearing different opinions and interpretations of certain regulations. While compliance with aviation regulations is a must, our work in the cockpit, hangar, and flight line has a way of exposing the gray areas between regulatory certainties. A spirited discussion of these issues is a good sign—it means your folks are thinking about their work and are not complacent.

Listen carefully to what is being said at the lunch-and-learn. The beliefs and attitudes expressed can alert management to confusion about company policies and procedures as they relate to safety, pilot operations, or maintenance. Remember, in a just culture, the focus is on improving safety. Expressing honest opinions or thoughts, even if—especially if—they expose potentially hazardous conditions, is encouraged.

As a service to HAI members, most of the 2019 RSC sessions will be available online beginning in May. Login to, and you’ll have access to the slide presentation synced to an audio recording of the presentation. These online learning tools can be used to address a particular issue or as content for your next safety meeting.

The HFI Rotor Safety Challenge can be a resource for ongoing safety education throughout the year—even for those who don’t make it to HAI HELI-EXPO. 

Read More: HAI Aids HEC Operators with FAA Exemptions
August 08, 2018

Following a months-long grounding of US-based human external cargo (HEC) helicopter operations because of certification issues, the first helicopter operator has received its FAA-approved exemption and will be able to resume operations shortly.

Due in part to efforts by HAI staff members, the FAA approved the exemption for Haverfield Aviation on July 13. The Pennsylvania-based company expects to resume HEC flight operations as soon as the appropriate changes are incorporated into its Part 133 Rotorcraft Load Combination Flight Manual and approved by its flight standards district office.

“HAI worked tirelessly on behalf of Haverfield Aviation to ensure the HEC exemption process was moving through the complex system of the FAA,” says Brian Parker, president and CEO of Haverfield. “Chris Martino and Harold Summers [respectively, HAI’s VP of flight operations and its director of flight operations and technical services] were always available and kept Haverfield Aviation promptly updated. HAI certainly contributed to the successful approval of the waiver. Haverfield and its customers that rely on HEC are greatly appreciative of HAI’s assistance.”

The issue came to light earlier this year, when operators learned that the FAA was increasing its focus on compliance with the HEC requirements of 14 CFR Part 27 or 29. The agency had determined that the cargo hooks used for HEC operations were not certified for that use. The hooks, which have been used for decades in HEC operations, have never been implicated in any accident or incident.

Later in the spring, the FAA then requested all operators halt HEC operations until the companies complied or had received an exemption pending certification. The grounding affected operators using MD 500/Hughes 369 helicopters.

Haverfield’s exemption requires them to use an emergency anchor, or belly band, as a secondary safety device in case the cargo hook fails. The exemption also requires the operator to provide training on the use of the emergency anchor and to follow other best practices for HEC operations.

HAI became involved after being contacted by several member companies that had halted their HEC work at the request of the FAA. HAI began working to help resolve the issue while also calling for the operators to work sensibly and safely while waiting for the exemption process to proceed.

Haverfield joined 18 other operators in applying for an exemption. HAI stepped in as a neutral third party between the FAA and the operators, helping to facilitate discussion, address issues, and assist in resolving specific issues, including proper wording on applications for exemption. HAI also served as a central point of contact for the FAA and the operators.

“We served as a liaison, connecting the operators with the FAA. We understood that these companies needed to get back to work, but we also appreciate that we needed to find a solution that would keep everyone in compliance with FAA regs,” says Harold Summers. “We coordinated the communication between the industry and the FAA on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis to speed up and streamline the process.”

While several of the affected companies submitted requests for exemption, the FAA selected one application — Haverfield’s — that came closest to being complete. “Now that it’s approved, it will serve as a template for the other operators to use for their applications,” adds Summers. By modeling their exemption applications on Haverfield’s, other operators can receive summary approval by the FAA.

Founded in 1981 and an HAI Regular Member since 1994, Haverfield Aviation is a provider of aerial power line inspection, maintenance, repair, and construction support services for the North American electric utility industry. 

Read More: Smart Glasses: Helicopter MRO with "Vision"
August 08, 2018

Among the technological fantasies offered by science fiction, Star Trek’s holodeck is one of the most intriguing. The holodeck offered the Enterprise crew the chance to interact with a realistic 3D environment. This could be any place, for any purpose — training for a mission on an alien planet or, as a break from shipboard life, spending an afternoon hiking on a forest trail.

The 24th century, inhabited in fiction by Captain Picard and his crew, has arrived early. Science fiction is quickly becoming science fact, as virtual reality/augmented reality/mixed reality, or VR/AR/MR, is being adopted for a broad variety of commercial and personal uses.

If you think that VR/AR is solely a toy for gamers, think again. Yes, it’s a booming leisure activity — and it’s also a social and business phenomenon. Health care providers use it for diagnostics; the Pentagon for combat training; real estate agents to show off homes; and automobile makers to build virtual prototypes of new vehicles, to list only a few examples.

With the commercial aviation sector booming around the world, demand for AR smart glasses in the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) field is skyrocketing. Major MRO players, such as Air France Industries, Monarch Aircraft Engineering, Lufthansa Technik, and AAR, are adopting smart glasses as a way to help their maintenance technicians work faster, more efficiently, and well, smarter.

Read More: Hot Topics in Finance and Leasing
August 07, 2018

Q. Why are hourly-cost maintenance programs (HCMPs) often required when financing or leasing a helicopter?

An HCMP, often referred to as “paying by the hour,” is a program that allows operators to fulfill maintenance requirements, stay on top of costs, and reduce risks, regardless of whether the helicopter is financed or leased.

An operator enters an HCMP program with either the manufacturer or an independent entity and pays a flat hourly rate per flight hour to have a guaranteed percentage of all qualified scheduled and unscheduled maintenance costs covered. The client reports flight hours either monthly or at agreed-upon intervals and pays the subsequent flight-hour invoice while the HCMP covers the agreed-upon percentage of maintenance costs for the term.

Finance and leasing entities usually mandate HCMP programs because of the strategic and financial benefits to their customers and the overall reduced risk of the investment. In addition to streamlining the maintenance budget to a flat hourly rate per flight hour, HCMPs also maintain the residual value of the helicopter. Valuations of aircraft with HCMPs are higher than valuations of aircraft without them.

Furthermore, HCMPs also protect both operators and lenders/lessors from certain financial risks because the necessary funds for future maintenance are accrued in real time. In addition, the risk of qualified unscheduled failures is borne by the HCMP service provider, who may also assume the risk of some other variable costs, such as mandatory service bulletins and airworthiness directives.

The lending and leasing communities usually mandate the use of HCMPs to combat value loss and mitigate the financial risk of maintenance costs.

– Kyle Sale, director of business development for Jet Support Services, Inc. (JSSI)

Read More: Dr. Carrol Max Voss Flies West
August 07, 2018

Dr. Carrol Voss, the founder of AGROTORS, Inc., and a pioneer in the use of helicopters in aerial application, died June 10 at his home in Maine at the age of 98. Voss joined the Navy Air Corps during World War II, serving as a flight instructor for PBY and PBM “flying boats.” He met his wife, Wilma “Jo,” who was also in the Navy at the time, and they married in 1945.

Voss continued his education and interests in entomology and aviation following the war, earning a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin. In the late 1940s, Voss received his helicopter pilot’s license and started working in the industry. After nearly a decade of working with helicopters and agriculture, he started his own company, AGROTORS, Inc., in 1958. The company became a leader in aerial application operations, later opening a flight school in the mid-1960s.

Voss served as a consultant with the World Health Organization, helping to establish aerial application programs for insect infestations in Africa. He was also a consultant for agricultural spraying in India, the USSR, and South America.

Voss began working with HAI in 1953 when it was still Helicopter Association of America. He was active in the Agriculture Committee and helped to produce a safety video about flying in the wire and obstruction environment. His son, Tim, who was also active in HAI, took over AGROTORS when the elder Voss retired in 1985.

Voss was the recipient of the Twirly Birds Les Morris Award (1995) and HAI’s Lawrence Bell Lifetime Achievement Award (2001). AGROTORS also received HAI’s Sikorsky Humanitarian Service Award (2000) for assisting with mosquito eradication in New York.

Read More: Threats … and Opportunities
August 07, 2018

As this is my first column as chairman of HAI, let me introduce myself. My name is James Wisecup. Most people call me Jim.

I began flying helicopters in 1969 in the US Army. After a fairly brief active-duty army career, I spent a few years in the National Guard and Army Reserve in my home state of Texas. After my army service, I flew for offshore operations in the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, the North Atlantic, the South China Sea, and offshore California before shifting to the helicopter air ambulance (HAA) sector.

I was a line pilot, check airman, and then chief pilot for Rocky Mountain Helicopters, which was the largest HAA operator at the time. I am currently an assistant chief pilot for Air Methods Corporation, one of the largest air medical companies in the world.

Safety and training are my passions. Safety, because both our operating costs and public acceptance of our industry depend on our ability to improve our safety record. Training, because that is how I think we will reduce accidents, most of which are caused by human factors.

The most important thing we can do to improve our industry is to pass along to the next generation of pilots and maintenance technicians what we have learned over the years. You may call this storytelling. Some people call it training.

After all, none of us will live long enough to make all of the mistakes ourselves. If we don’t learn from the mistakes of others, we will die trying. Be your brother’s keeper, as his actions can affect your profession.

I am proud to have spent my career in aviation. There are so many jobs that are done by helicopters — more than the average person realizes. However, things are changing.

Drones, or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), seem to be the latest technology threatening our industry. But are they really a threat?

Yes, they will increasingly take over surveillance, inspection, and reconnaissance missions. But that makes sense. These often mundane missions can, in many cases, be done more safely, economically, and efficiently with UAS.

We tend to get rigid about how we have “always” done things. Instead of telling those drone-flying kids to get off of our lawns, however, let’s remember two things: First, there are still missions that can only be done by helicopters — our industry may change but it’s not going away. Second, we know that drones are here to stay — newer, cheaper technology tends to stick around — so let’s figure out how to integrate their operations into the airspace that we all share.

Another external threat to our industry is the noise issue. Many well-meaning, well-organized groups throughout the United States have banded together to voice dissatisfaction with the noise being generated by helicopters overflying their homes and recreational areas. Although the noise from helicopters may not in fact be the loudest noise in these neighborhoods, it does seem to generate the most concern.

It is imperative that we listen to these groups to understand what the true issues are and, if possible, find a way to mitigate them. We can still do our job — but we may have to do it while flying higher or taking a route that doesn’t impact our neighbors as much.

Yes, there will be times when we won’t have a perfect solution to a noise complaint. But if we do all that we can to minimize the noise impact of our operations, it will go a long way to improve our relations with our neighbors. We need to both model and teach these behaviors to new pilots as well as the more experienced ones.

Another issue is the pilot and maintenance technician shortage. There are many factors affecting the personnel scarcity. Training is expensive, the military is not producing as many qualified people as in the past, and the competition for talent from the fixed-wing world is greater than ever.

We need to actively get into our local communities and reach out to younger individuals to educate them about the opportunities available in the helicopter world. Without pilots and maintenance technicians to fly and operate our machines, the rotors won’t keep turning. Please consider working with Helicopter Foundation International (HFI) for outreach opportunities and assistance.

Obviously, the safe operation of helicopters is a main focus at HAI, but I firmly believe that we can operate safely and still be responsible stewards of the helicopter world as well.

I am excited to be working with professionals such as you in the vertical-lift community, and I hope I can contribute to advancing our industry into the future. Let’s take advantage of our opportunities to ensure that the helicopter remains a vital part of the global aviation scene.



Read More: Flight Path
August 07, 2018

Q Your current role?
In addition to being a pilot, I manage aircraft scheduling, plan routes, and ensure FAR/GOM compliance for on-demand charters to ensure optimal business output.

QYour most memorable  helicopter ride?
My most memorable flight was the first time I flew into New York City and circled the Statue of Liberty. Being from a small town in the heartland, New York City was a place I had only seen in movies, and I never imagined I would end up flying here.

Q What still excites you about helicopter aviation?
Walking out to the helicopter each day still excites me. The quick pace and challenge of using noise/traffic abatement routes, calling FBOs, hovering between parallels, calling out traffic, and getting a landing
clearance all at the same time is something I never would’ve imagined myself capable of in a solo pilot environment. Now it’s all in a normal day’s work.

Q What advice would you give to someone pursuing your career path?
Shake as many hands and make as many friends as possible. The people you meet will be your network of colleagues and friends throughout your career. The rotorcraft
community is very tight-knit and getting